Each year, masses of incoming freshman line up outside of Mason Hall to observe Convocation Day, the official induction ceremony into Baruch College. At 10 a.m. on Aug. 24, the students were ushered in by a continuous trail of Freshman Seminar peer mentors.
Most of the freshmen were unaware that one of the peer mentors present at the scene would assume the position of a leader in one of their classes, the Freshman Seminar. To indicate their involvement in the Office of Student Life, each peer mentor sported a shirt that promised to uphold the values of engagement, excellence, integrity and respect, principles deeply rooted in the creation of the Freshman Seminar curriculum.
The official ceremony did not begin until after every student was seated, roughly an hour after the earliest packs had arrived. During the wait, peer mentors walked up and down the stairs in an effort to match each freshman with their room for the upcoming seminar.
Convocation began with a series of greetings. President Mitchel B. Wallerstein extended his sincerest congratulations to the entering class. He amplified the notion that getting into and attending college were huge accomplishments that call for praise and extraordinary respect.
Wallerstein then took a moment after his speech to introduce Daniel Dornbaum, president of Undergraduate Student Government. Wallerstein cited Dornbaum by his credentials and impressive commitment to service and to the Baruch community. Dornbaum’s speech took a more lighthearted approach; he highlighted the plentiful opportunities that exist at Baruch and his hopes that every student can find his or her second home within the college.
Celeste Ng, the author of Everything I Never Told You, drifted toward the podium as Dornbaum took his seat following applause. Nudrat Kadir, first-time peer mentor commented that Ng surprised her because of “the fact that she didn’t like public speaking didn’t show since she was really good at delivering such a compelling speech about her book.”
A committee picked Ng’s novel as the required summer reading for all freshmen and peer mentors. The book will act as a point of discussion and frequent return in all Freshmen Seminar classes.
Freshman Katerina Raymond, who attended Convocation, commented that Ng’s presence at Baruch was unexpected but quickly turned into a pleasant and entertaining surprise.
“It was nice to hear from the author and be able to understand why she put everything she put into the book,” said Raymond. “I actually really liked the book. I’m not into mandatory reading, but I would have chosen this book myself.”
During her speech, Ng discussed how personal moments in her life had infiltrated and offered points about ideas and feelings, like loneliness and expectations, that became common tropes within the novel.
The ceremony dwindled down with the official induction, during which Art King, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, asked all freshmen to stand and recite an oath that promises to execute the basic values that will be promoted by peer mentors and faculty members alike.
Students were invited to sing Baruch’s alma mater along with Teresa Parker, who devoted a few minutes of the ceremony to teach the freshmen the song.
After the excitement of engaging in song, peer mentors led the students back to the Newman Vertical Campus in order to split up into their individual Freshman Seminar classes.
In these classes, peer mentors were tasked to get to know their peers through various icebreakers and themed book talks. Most peer mentors are partnered with an instructor who is meant to facilitate classroom discussion.
Freshman Seminar classes typically meet once every week for the duration of the Fall semester. Each class focuses on a specific lesson that aims to help freshmen transition into college as seamlessly as possible.
Directly following the first session of Freshman Seminar was either a set of performances or a team-building workshop, split up evenly for all freshmen according to the day of their meeting.
At Mason Hall, Baruch’s Blue Notes, an a cappella group, stunned the crowd with a cover of Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown.” Then, an improvisation crew from Magnet Theater parodied the typical life of a freshman student in order to express humor in Baruch student culture.
To close the session, the performers invited a few volunteers on stage, who were then asked to act out a place. Another volunteer was asked to interpret the actors’ poses as if they were snapshots of the moment, depending on how they were posed. The zoo seemed to be a highly popular option, as many students started to shout the word. One of the student volunteers who were asked to pose for the zoo squatted down and bent his arms at the elbows and to the sides of his chest, mimicking the stance of a careful and mischievous gorilla. The interpreter decided that the actor must have been squatting to best air out his armpits and ensure that nobody would notice the odor emanating from him.
The other session that occurred simultaneously took place in the main gym of the NVC. Students seem to agree that this was the best event because it allowed them to form relationships and build common ground with new students.
“My favorite activity would be the activities that took place in the gymnasium because the Rock Paper Scissors game got really intense,” said Jose Benitez, a freshman who engaged in a dynamic and heated game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with his graduating class.
Another freshman commented that the team-building exercises in the gym were great ways to get to know her fellow peers in a way she would not have been able to do on her own.
Freshmen and peer mentors were then invited to attend a block party that took place on the 25th Street Plaza after Convocation.